Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

Though it seems like an odd testament for the existence of God, I can always testify to His existence and realness when I experience a palpable darkness trying to creep in.  I can feel Light and Darkness.  So, just what am I talking about?

I’m not sure if Kevin or I noticed this first but EACH time I blogged about how well we were doing during my pregnancy with Olive, how jubilant I am about this bonus baby, or how our marriage has been resuscitated after years of struggle, I would face some strange tribulation the next day.

Kevin wisely suggested that we almost anticipate it and pray specifically against it.

This was not limited to when I would blog about happy thangs instead of writing about persistent struggle and angst.  It would happen even when Kevin and I were doing exceptionally well and creating new, healthy habits.  Like a couple nights ago, Kevin and I finally had our New Year’s talk, using Pastor Rich’s Rule of Life steps (which I hope to write about, too).

We were pleased with ourselves for not reaching for the remote control once the kids went to bed.  Instead, we wrote down what gives us life and what impacts our spirit negatively, in order to give ourselves some direction for this new year.  We prayed for these plans and desires to take flight.  And we even had time left over to watch my new favorite show, “The Chi.”

The very next day, our family’s sacred MLK Jr. Day, another meaningful day in our household – one son named after MLK Jr. and another conceived on MLK Jr. Day 2012, I had such an emotional setback that I couldn’t believe it.  As with many setbacks, the trigger shoulda coulda woulda been manageable, but it set me off so disproportionately that I am still processing.  Details are too boring and unnecessary to use up my word count here.

So yeah, when we are doing very well, or I share about doing very well, I can feel darkness trying to deposit thoughts like, “Really though?  You guys good?  Have you really progressed?  Maybe not?  How about I throw you some shit and see if you really overcame?”  and other more unsavory words of doubt and darkness.

I even said, “Dang, Kevin, maybe I shouldn’t share praises then!?”  Seems like an easy solution?  But no.  I will not be silenced by fear.  I refuse to dim the light in order to accommodate darkness.  I will keep sharing how He is working in my life even through my failures that DO make me wonder if I have progressed at all.

One blessing I dare to share about today is my middle son.  The boy has a way with words and sometimes utters things that literally take my breath away.  Last night, after my emotional setback that still got me like, “Huh!?”, the whole family listened to Dr. MLK Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and Ellis prayed, “Oh Lode, please make Martin Luther King Jr. alive again today.”  Yes, Lord, may his spirit live on during these dark times.  We need it.

And on 1/1/2018, the first day of the New Year, another day that is so sacred not just to our family but to all who love a fresh new start that the new calendar page signifies, I had another emotional snafu.  (Hmmm, I had probably shared some praises again or felt especially grateful for the last week of 2017).  After we made some dumplings from scratch, a New Year’s Day tradition we want to keep up when we are at home for New Year’s, I burnt the first batch because I got distracted.

Should be no big deal but I got real down on myself like, “Dang, girl, what the hell is wrong with you?”  and spiraled a bit when I thought I was getting better with this self-flagellation problem.  I told Ellis, “Mommy’s not doing too well.  I know it’s not a big deal that I wasted those dumplings but sometimes, Mommy talks mean to herself and she gets stuck.”

He stared at me with those eyes that look right into my soul and said:

You are my heart.  (“You ah my haw-wut.”)

You are beloved.

I love you.

And you are beautiful.

It really felt like God sent me a little messenger when I needed words of affirmation to drive out my thoughts of condemnation.  I asked him to repeat himself.  He said it again to a tearful Mommy and blessed me over and over again.

Please feel free to receive those words of blessing for yourself.

**The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. – John 1:5**

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MistleTOE Marvel

Happy New Year!  I don’t have a profound declaration or meaningful mantra for this new year as I didn’t get to collect my thoughts during the last week of 2017.  So for now, I will settle for a measly rhyme:  “Year One Eight, You Will Be Great!”  And I’m still looking for a theme verse with vivid imagery for 2018.

The last week of 2017 was filled with quality family and friend time, a whole lot of togetherness in both NYC and CT.  I will spare you our December calendar.  Instead, I just wanted to capture one magical-in-the-mundane moment that took my breath away.  Magic in the mundane is a theme I keep getting drawn to, my favorite kind of treasure hunt because it’s so easy.

The boys had finally completed their last day of school on December 22nd, so close to Christmas Eve.  It felt comically late as CA friends seem to have been on break for a while.  To kick off our one week of holiday break, I announced that we should go for a family swim after dinner, though it was dark and cold out.

“Family swim” meant the boys would go with Daddy to the local pool while I stayed home with Olive.  Once they got back,  I would get tagged for my turn in this relay-parenting we’ve grown accustomed to.  It was tempting to skip my swim as it was already their bedtimes and so much warmer in our apartment with our glowy, fake Christmas tree.

But I started getting excited to finally go for my solitary swim at the end of the year, when I couldn’t make homework or dinner an excuse for not going.  My body ached to move beyond school pick-ups and baby lifting.

And what a great way to kick off winter break.  The swim would be cleansing, like a baptism into well-being.

Olive was babbling up a storm and I kissed her all over as she was bouncing up and down on my lap after she had nursed.  I noticed she was due for a toenail clipping as her little toenails scraped my thighs.  I grabbed her little feet and almost gasped when I spotted her pinky toenail.

It was extra small, curved funkily and growing up into the ceiling instead of straight across.  JUST LIKE MINE except 40 years younger, cuter and juicier.

Kevin always teases me about why I bother to have a pinky toenail when it’s that small.  The few times I’ve had a pedicure, the person doing my nails has had to basically paint my skin since there is only a dot of upturned nail.

With the Christmas music playing and with the apartment aglow with Christmas lights, I teared up once again, not just about this little girl being gifted to our family in 2017, but struck by how I’ve already handed things down to her, like this baby toenail.

What else would I pass down?  Both good and bad.  Perhaps she will be curious and compassionate like me?  Expressive and emotional?  But will she also feel things too much like me?  Prematurely grey?  Freakishly skinny wrists and ankles with nothing else thin?  Unforgiving of entitled, spoiled people?  And so much more.

I’m going to be one of her strongest influences.  Lord help me raise her up right.

I also thought about one of Kevin’s favorite songs, “Things We Handed Down” by Marc Cohn:

“Don’t know much about you
Don’t know who you are
We’ve been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don’t know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we’d give you all our love
Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down …”

I wanted to text Kevin the picture of MistleToe Jr. and also ask when he might be coming home so that I wouldn’t back out of my swim.  Just as I was about to text him, I happened to look out of our big living room window to see and hear the joyful commotion of my three, bundled up guys walking home, Kevin holding on tightly to their cold, little hands.

Though they are growing up so fast, I thanked God that they were still little as I watched them cross the street.  I thanked God for them literally looking up to their dad at the crosswalk, still innocent enough for a night swim with their dad visibly delighting them.  I could feel their smiles from across the street.

And Olive, you just might inherit other funky traits from your mama, other than your funky pinky toe.  Please forgive me and know that you amaze me just by existing.  You got nothing to prove, girl.  And you can tell me anything though I know I have big reactions.  Will work on that.

Hope y’all had a merry holiday season.  Here’s to 2018!  May we have our arms stretched out to receive God’s mercy and grace that He hands down to us each moment.

 

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2018 is not a birth year for any of my children so I hope to take a break from cards.

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12.24.17  Olive’s first Christmas Eve candlelight service (photo taken by Pam Chowayou)

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Micah is SNAPPING, ok!?

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Olive the baby teenager

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Mistletoe Marvel

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was 12.12.17

Dear Olive,

Yesterday was a memorable cute date of 12.12 for our nation, thanks to Alabama.  I wondered if we should have at least included “Selma” as one middle name for you.

I was so nervous that I’d be embarrassed once again, embarrassed to birth you into a world of our current President’s dangerous buffoonery, while your brothers only knew President Obama, and even embarrassed like during your first extended outing where someone had left a big turd on the changing station at a Costco, for the next person (us) to have to deal with.

I felt like man, you were safely ensconced in my womb and you emerged for such a shit show this year but Alabama gave us a little something to hold on to though dag, that was too close for comfort for such a no brainer choice.

Before your daddy and I got to watch the election results late at night, the whole family got to enjoy some Christmas activities like decorating the tree and nibbling on some Christmas cookies while your brothers danced to Christmas music.

Thanks to you, we put up FIVE stockings this year in our new apartment.

I used to write on here about how I didn’t quite know how to celebrate or do the holidays merrily because my parents had to work so much and celebrations had to take a backseat to making ends meet.

I’m now able to enjoy so much more and I don’t dwell on the lack of available extended family.

As cheesy as this is, and I know I’ve said this in some form at least 57 times on here but thank you for gifting me with joy each time I get to snuggle your fresh, fleshy face and peer into your ever-alert eyes.  You were not an obvious missing piece in family photos until you arrived, if that makes any sense.  You still new around here but when I think of life before you, I see a huge Olive-shaped missing puzzle piece.

Thank You, Lord, for knowing our hearts’ desire even before it was a glimmer in our eyes.

Heads up, girl, it’s gonna be in the 20s with howling winds when we go pick up your brothers today.

 

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December’s Double Doctor Delight

Dear Micah,

First things first:  I’m sorry for telling you to leave your homework on the table for Mommy to check after she makes dinner, actually, hold on, after she gives your sister some butternut squash, oh wait, after she fetches your brother some rice so he won’t “help” by climbing into the fridge to get it himself.

When you were already in class this morning, I saw the homework still sitting there, unchecked.

I’m also sorry for the less-than-yummy dinner I made last night.  I forgot to add a whole cup of water to the Instant Pot so the pasta came out crunchy, while I told you guys to eat up.

I’m sorry for always asking you to get something for me these days – “Micah, plug in the tree. Micah, grab me the wipes.  Micah can you make sure your sister doesn’t roll onto the floor?”  While it’s imperative for everyone, young and old, to pitch in, I do wonder if I ask of you the most.  You, your dad, and I are all firstborns so we get it.

I’m still thinking about your doctor appointment on Saturday, when you were seen for your seven year-old wellness exam at the same time as Olive’s six month exam.  I was so happy to score one appointment for two kids.  Your brother got to spend a bit of special time with Daddy.

You were such a bashful baby and toddler, offering up all your toys to any little one who came near you, even before they asked for a toy, while I was like, dag, you got to be able to handle confrontations, boy, especially as a minority!  Stand your ground.  Use your words.  Don’t let entitled moms and kids alike come and grab your thangs out of your hands.

So it’s fascinating to watch you speak directly to adults in recent years, like when the doctor asked about Olive, and you became her little papa.  You made me recall that I always daydreamed about having a big bro or two, a big bro who would play basketball with his friends and come home for some Sunny D and then one of his cute friends would notice me in the kitchen with a big island and boojie fridge, but I digress.

When the doctor was asking ME about what Olive is able to do, you answered, “Yes, she’s able to recognize faces.  She knows me.  Yeah, she is starting to say lots of stuff.  She can say vowels AND consonants.  We started giving her rice and oatmeal cereal.  She likes it.  Yes, she can hold toys with both hands.”

And when it came time for her many shots and I braced myself needlessly, as she was my least crying baby yet, you suddenly appeared between me and Olive, having squirreled your way in.  At first, I was annoyed:  “Micah, you got to give me space!  Where did you even come from, Flash?”

You mostly spoke to Olive in response as you pet her cheeks, “I have to see her!  It’s gonna be okay, girl.  Look at me.  Look at me.  Don’t be scared.”

I laughed.  “She doesn’t even know what’s about to go down right now.”

As we walked home, with Olive succumbing to sleep in the Snap N Go that is already too snug for her, and you karate-chopping the air and jumping from tree root to tree root, I was struck by how the seemingly mundane life of a mom is full of miracles.

I get to witness my fetuses turn into puppy-like morsels, and morsels into full humans that grow, transform, and blossom, like my babbling, rolly six month old to my newly minted seven year old jack-o-lantern with a missing top tooth at this double doctor appointment in December.

I’m excited to see you after school and do some Advent activities tonight.  The Tooth Fairy must be busy this holiday season – her ETA is some time this week, I heard.  Thank you for being a super big bro to Olive, and to Ellis, too (most of the time).

Love,

Mommy

 

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11.29.12  The original double doctor appointment five years ago, when you just turned two and E was almost two months old.  Look at you, both in diapers!

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Your photo of Olive while Mommy held her head.

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Recipient of Goodness – Thanksgiving 2017

My favorite Sunday of the year is Testimony Sunday, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

This past Sunday was that Sunday.  After three New Lifers shared their very different stories of gratitude and hope, Pastor Rich told us that being grateful, simply saying “thanks,” is different from living a life marked by gratitude.

He shared this definition of gratitude:  *Gratitude is a knowing awareness that we are the recipients of goodness.*

As Thanksgiving and my firstborn’s birthday is upon us, I wanted to shout out Olive, who is a living, cooing reminder that we have received a tangible outpouring of goodness Memorial Sunday 2017:

Dear Olive Hope Kim,

Thank you for being Thanksgiving personified for our family this year.

During tough times, choosing to be grateful all the dang time was a challenge, a challenge I wanted to rebel against.  Other times, it is too easy.

This year, you make it too easy.  When I think of you, see you, smell you, hear you, let you sleep in my armpit when you creep over from your crib, you mark me with gratitude. Even now, you are perched on your tummy on your playmat next to me as I type and when we meet eyes, you beam at me.

I just saw a picture on Facebook from a few years ago, a picture of our family of four, when you were just a fantasy I thought I needed to put to bed because…c’mon now!

Thank you for joining us.  Thank you for allowing us to experience baby joy all over again.  Thank you for filling our cluttered household with awe, even with the overstuffed diaper bag that your dad went from saying, “Never again.  It is finished,” to “Do we have enough diapers in there?”

When I see your brothers surround you, joke with you, hold you, my hands raise to the heavens as a reflex.  Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord.

Thank you for making it seem like there was never a time before you.  Thank you for reminding us that there is still good and blessing in this world as I watch terrible current events unfold.  While I was watching news about the Vegas shooting on 10/2, the morning after your Ellis brother’s 5th birthday, you rolled over for the first time.  What a contrast:  the evil that lurks everywhere and a still-pure you, rolling over in the safety of our cozy apartment.

Watching you grow into a real human will be one of the top five periods of my life I will reminisce about in my old age.  Sure, I’m tired and now that it’s cold, I’m carrying All the Jackets and I can’t get past the tables at the library or in the aisles of T.J. Maxx.

Some days, especially from school pick-up through bedtime, I want to yell or actually yell at your excitable brothers who seem to have hearing problems when I speak.  Then I’ll catch a glimpse of you lying around in some corner of our living room, beaming like we are celebrities, or searching the room with your bright eyes, moaning for somebody to come poke you in the belly or just pay you some mind, and then I’ll be back at Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord.

Right now, there is no separate Olive and Mommy.  You are an extension of me wherever I go.  Even at church, when Daddy asks to hold you, I miss you and I want to feel your warm body back in my arms, gazing at me and punching my chest as you nurse.

Your precious infanthood is already almost halfway done and it isn’t hard for me to cherish every moment, as the cliche goes, because I now know all too well how fast it goes before I’m chasing you at the playground and trying not to say something I’ll regret.

Under a Friendsgiving tarp this past Sunday, with the rain beating down, your dad decided to dance with you while he was holding you.  He told me that he got teary-eyed as he imagined dancing with you decades down the line, Lord willing, perhaps under a tarp with loved ones, and you still beaming at him.

I’m done typing now so I can hold you, our Thanksgiving star.  Publishing now before our laptop crashes again.

Love,

Mommy

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The Middle

I’ve swallowed up whole blog posts in my mind.

I have stories after stories churning in my head yet I tell myself that they should only be emailed to myself to share with my grown kids in the future or jotted down in a journal I only use twice a month at my writers’ group.

But what’s the fun in that?  So I decided to post a couple here, even though I always have this fear of being insufferable, too in love with my kids.  But hey, that is a part of who I am these days, as much as I find some aspects of motherhood beyond difficult (that’s ANOTHER post in the mental pipeline).

So, just a heads up that this post is for family and the few friends who have any interest in our kids:

My middle.  My E.Z. aka Emoji, Expressive Ellis, Ellis the Entertainer.  I once remarked to Kevin, “I can’t ever call him Mahng-Neh (“Last baby” in Korean) because I just don’t FEEL that he is.  And if anything, he would be perfectly suited to take on the difficult middle child role because he could never be a neglected wallflower, with those eyes and that personality.  Yeah, yeah, all this crazy talk about fantasy third kid, I know.”

Fast forward few years later and daggone, words have power.  He ended up becoming the middle child.  My impossible to ignore Middle.

Last month, we were in the elevator with an older woman.  Our new building is much friendlier.  This woman studied baby Olive and commented, “This one.  She is very smart.”  Then she looked up at the two boys who were shyly watching her watching their sister.  “These.  Look at their eyes.  All very smart.”

I responded, “Great to hear compliments about my kids but I have to ask.  How can you tell?”

She answered, “Believe me.  I am a retired pediatrician.  I know these things.  Enjoy your evening.”

After she left and the elevator door closed, Ellis immediately blurted out, “I’m retired.  Mostly tired.”

My body froze for a moment.  This humor!  I gotta book his comedy tour now.  I might have a fledgling comedian in my care.

When I made a big deal about his little joke, Micah explained that it was a direct quote from the Angry Birds movie.  So it wasn’t original material but this dude has a way of inserting a quote at the exact right time to yield maximum laughter.

He is loyal and vocal.  During a classroom visit, he ran up to a Class Mom to ask for a straw for the jack-o-lantern craft.  I told him that he already had a straw to cut up.  He explained that his friend at the next table didn’t.

And boy, I can relate to how he gets fixated on something.  Right now, he has an acute fear of college, this place that kids grow up to attend,  to LIVE APART from their families.  He said, “Even though I try not to, I keep thinking about it and I can’t just think about something else, like you told me to.  Even during school, I think about college and I get scared.”  As he plays Legos with his brother, I can overhear him include this in the plotline, “Son, you going to college!”

One weekend, I was taking him to an activity when he said, “I want to be a doctor.”

I told him, “Well, that’s pretty cool.  But you can always change your mind because you’re still young and other things may interest you.  Also, to become a doctor, you have to go to lots of school and study lots of science.”

“Yeah, and I know I can’t spend enough time with my wife so maybe not.”

“Excuse me?  Where did you hear this?  Did you have a doctor guest speaker tell you that?”

“No!  I just know these things!”

“Oh, and what made you want to become a doctor?  I’m so curious because Mommy and Daddy never wanted to become a doctor.”

“Well, I want to help people.  When I got a flu shot and I did uh, ya know, controlllll and holding it in, to not cry even though I was scared, that doctor was helping me not to get the flu.”

I come undone daily because of this spunky yet sensitive guy.  Sometimes, he does feel sad because he said it is obvious that Mommy loves baby the most because she needs me the most, and that he wishes he could be born again as a baby so I can hold him lots.

I have to set aside some one-on-one time for him, and reassure him that he is my babyest boy forever.

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This is Us, Season 2, Episode 5 “Brothers”

I have to write about “This is Us.”

I tried not to because so many recaps and fan comments are already out there, and I get impatient when I have to recap something but during a recent episode, two episodes ago, the one that aired on Halloween (?),  I had to pause the recorded episode more than usual, to let some feelings sink in.

***SPOILER ALERT***

We see a flashback to Young Boy Jack waiting in the passenger seat of his dad’s car, while the dad is getting drunk at a bar in broad daylight, where his boy can see him.  Jack looks sad and disappointed, but also like he’s had to endure this sh*t before.  Suddenly, a younger boy pops up from the backseat, adjusting his glasses after waking up from a deep car nap.  Jack has a little brother.

I wish we hadn’t deleted this episode from our DVR because I want to know exactly what Jack said that got me intensely feeling some feelings and screaming, “Pause it right there, ermagawd, pause.  I can’t take it.”  He tries to comfort his little brother about how even though the dad isn’t there, he (big bro) is there so little brother need not be afraid.

Now, this is why this show will drag me back to therapy or serve as some bootleg therapy or both.

That moment that may not have done anything for other viewers touched me.

It took me back to my own childhood when my parents were not yet home past the usual time they were supposed to be home.  We were latchkey kids because my parents had to work long hours at whatever small business they owned at the time.  My parents mourned this often, the fact that their choice to immigrate to this country resulted in a latchkey life for their two young kids, after my dad’s employer in Korea went belly up.

When they were late getting home at an already late hour, my brother would start to get scared, whimpering, “Nunah, what if something happened to them?  What if they got into a car accident?  Why aren’t they home?  What if they never come home?”  I would try to calm him down by trying to distract him or divert his attention (good training for motherhood) but ultimately, my brother would start crying.

I would even try to coax him to fall asleep so that when he woke up, he would wake up to my parents being there.

I wanted to cry, too, and not have to front.  I wanted to slap some bravery into my brother as I was secretly a-quiver with fear and his free falling tears were too much for me.  I wanted someone to comfort me but I had to be Small Mommy, my nickname.

Jack’s moment of comforting his little brother struck a chord deep within my 41 year-old heart because it took me back to remembering that feeling, how my body felt heavy and unmoored, feeling just as scared as my little brother, but having to fake the funk in order to comfort him.

I didn’t want my brother to know that I was also just a kid who was wondering if something had happened to my parents, the parents I wished I could talk to about my day at school, share my constant stream of thoughts and observations with, and all the tender emotions I carried with me.

When Adult Jack woke up in the middle of the night to dig up an old photo of him in the military, surprising us viewers by showing us his grown up little brother in the same photo, still wearing those heavy-framed glasses, looking very much like the sibling who needed protection from the world, I was undone.  “Pause it again, Kevin.  Pause!”

Siblings share the same family experiences, joys and burdens alike, so I used to say, “Shouldn’t we turn out the same?”  I learned that though we are part of the same family unit, we still are different individuals with different defining moments and constitutions, with different relationships within the same family.

So we all get to write different endings.  I’m just glad that my brother and I still get to be in the middle, not the end, and just like the White Saviour Judge said on last night’s episode:

“Can you find me a different ending to your story?”

We don’t have to be stuck in the same family roles or repeat the same dysfunctions that our well-meaning parents passed down to us.

I love that every day is a chance at a new beginning, middle and end.  The beauty of this show is that it takes me back to my own childhood, tiny yet grand moments I would not have revisited or processed because everyday is a flurry of raising our own Big Three.

Every Tuesday night, after our blessings go to bed, I don’t have to be The Mom.  I get to visit my inner child and see how she’s doing.

I love you, NBC’s This is Us.  Thank you.